10 Most Popular Desserts in the United States

By: Alia Hoyt & Sascha Bos  | 
Americans favorite desserts
Some of the most iconic North American desserts originated elsewhere. Annie Japaud/Getty Images

Who doesn't crave a wonderful, decadent dessert, especially after dinner? The name itself comes from the French word "desservir," which in English means "to clear away," in this case, the food from dinner table. And depending on where you are in the world that could mean a variety of after-dinner sweet treats. In China, it might contain sweet red beans or jujubes. In Mexico, flan could be on the menu.

Some of the most popular desserts in the United States came from other countries but reached icon status in the U.S. Case in point: There's nothing "as American as apple pie," although the pastry actually hails from Europe.


10. Cheesecake

New York-style cheesecake is made with cream cheese and always served without any toppings. Rebeca Mello/Getty Images

While you might think the cheesecake got its start in New York, the decadent dessert dates back to ancient Greece and the island of Samos. Anthropologists have found cheese molds there that date back to circa 2000 B.C.E., and the first recipe for Greek cheesecake is credited to writer Athenaeus in 230 C.E.

But it was New Yorkers who invented the cream cheese now standard to the cake's creamy filling. In 1872, a New York dairy farmer accidentally created what we now know as Philadelphia Cream Cheese when he tried to re-create French Neufchatel.


While there are seemingly unlimited variations of cheesecake, New York-style cheesecake features a cream cheese and egg custard baked in a graham cracker crust. (Graham crackers were also invented in the U.S.)

9. Cupcakes

gourmet cupcakes
Gourmet cupcakes come in all kinds of flavors, from lemon meringue pie and red velvet cake to cookies 'n' cream. Doug van Kampen, van Kampen Photo/Getty Images

Cupcakes aren't just for kids. And if you want a dessert fix entirely personalized for you, head to your nearest gourmet cupcake shop. People in the U.S. are fascinated with cupcakes — and cupcake bakeries — and it's easy to see why. They're small, stunning and pint-sized versions of every cake flavor you can imagine.

You can expect to find everything from classic vanilla cake with chocolate frosting to more inventive flavors like Key lime pie, red velvet and cookies 'n' cream. Of course, you don't have to go to a gourmet shop to get them. You can also make perfect cupcakes at home using a muffin pan and decorative paper liners.


8. Jell-O

One of the things that makes Jell-O so easy to love is it can be made into so many different desserts, like this variation with fresh strawberries. HandmadePictures/Shutterstock

There's always room for Jell-O. At least that's what the dessert's vintage famous ad slogan says. Jell-O is actually a brand name, but it's has become synonymous with any kind of gelatin dessert. There's an undeniably fun appeal to the jiggling, it's easy to make and there's virtually no cleanup required. All you have to do is add boiling water to the sweet mixture and chill it for a few hours.

Here's something you might not know: Gelatin is a processed version of collagen, a natural protein found in the tendons, ligaments and tissues of mammals. It's made by boiling the connective tissues, bones and skins of animals. And yes, that's what Jell-O is made from, too. Take that powdered gelatin, add some artificial sweetener and food coloring, and you have a very popular dessert. Chalk one up for the advertising business.


7. Carrot Cake

carrot cake
Carrot cake is technically a quick bread, like banana bread and most muffins, meaning it gets its rise from baking soda or baking powder. It has a denser texture than sponge cake, which gets its lift from whipped egg whites. Chalermsak/Shutterstock

Made popular in the U.S. in the mid-20th century, this traditional cake typically features shredded carrots, orange zest and just a hint of cinnamon. Tangy cream cheese frosting (made from cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar and vanilla extract) cuts the sweetness.

Like many other desserts, carrot cake can be made using a traditional recipe or dressed up with extras like macadamia nuts, pineapple and coconut.


6. Apple Pie

Apple Pie
The first apple pie can be traced back to the 14th century in Europe, but today it's become as much a symbol of the U.S. as baseball and the Fourth of July. Eldred Lim/Shutterstock

Nothing says America like baseball, hot dogs and apple pie. But apple pie wasn't even created in the United States.

Apple pies or tarts date all the way back to Europe in the 14th century. The first apple pie recipes are from 1390, and they used honey instead of sugar. In the 1700s, the fruit pie became pretty popular in the United Kingdom and was brought over to the colonies. By the 18th century, apple pie was a staple in North American cookbooks.


The famous à la mode version, topped with vanilla ice cream, didn't come into fashion until the 19th century in New York. (Fluffy whipped cream is another popular topping.)

The two most popular versions of the dessert are the double-crust variety, topped with a golden brown crust, and the Dutch, or crumb, apple pie, which has a flaky pastry crust on the bottom, and a crumble topping. Most folks prefer it fresh and warm from the oven, but frozen apple pies are big sellers as well; just ask Sara Lee.

5. Ice Cream

Chocolate Ice Cream
There's not much better than a bowl of cold ice cream on a hot summer day. Sezeryadigar/Getty Images

The birthplace of ice cream isn't certain, but food historians generally credit it to the Chinese and the flavored ices they enjoyed as far back as 3000 B.C.E. Marco Polo is believed to be the man responsible for bringing the idea to Italy, where the modern ice cream we enjoy today was born in the 17th century. The first ice cream recipe in the United States is thought to be from the 1792 cookbook "The New Art of Cookery, According to the Present Practice."

The invention of the hand-crank ice cream maker in 1843 allowed people to make the frozen dessert themselves, and homemade ice cream remains a popular dessert for family gatherings, perhaps because its so versatile. If you have cookies, you can make an ice cream sandwich; or add chocolate sauce, caramel sauce and fresh berries for sundaes.


Many flavors have come and gone over the years, but none rocked the ice cream world like cookies 'n' cream in 1979 and chocolate chip cookie dough in 1991. Still, according to a a 2016 report from Datassential, consumers' favorite ice cream flavors are vanilla and chocolate.

Nondairy ice creams, made with almond milk, coconut milk or oat milk, offer a vegan alternative that is growing in popularity.

4. Brownies

You can bake your brownies to be fudgy or cakey; and they can be plain or filled with nuts, chocolate chips or peanut butter, basically whatever your taste buds desire. Brian T. Evans/Getty Images

Served piping hot or at room temperature, made from scratch or from a mix, brownies are quite possibly one of the most versatile desserts out there, provided you enjoy a significant dose of chocolate flavor.

Some brownie connoisseurs prefer their creations to be more cake-like, whereas others enjoy a fudgier, moister consistency. In general, how your brownies turn out is influenced by the number of eggs and fat you use in the recipe, as well as how long you bake them for.


Brownies can also be tailor-made to suit your taste buds. The traditional chocolate variety is a classic, enjoyable option, but some aspiring pastry chefs prefer to include other ingredients to add some extra zing to the mix.

For example, cream cheese, peanut butter or chocolate chips, coffee, white chocolate and icing are all popular add-ins. Their versatility alone is what makes brownies one of the most beloved desserts in the U.S. (National brownie day falls on December 8.)

3. Chocolate Chip Cookies

chocolate chip cookies
If the U.S. had a national cookie, it would be the chocolate chip cookie. Esther Chou/Getty Images

For cookie lovers, rarely is there a recipe more beloved than the classic chocolate chip. The mixture of cookie dough and those delicious semisweet chocolate morsels is hard to beat, especially when they come straight out of a hot oven.

The recipe was created in the late '30s by Ruth Wakefield who ran the Toll House restaurant in Whitman, Massachusetts. Her recipe was so popular with her guests, it ran on Betty Crocker's radio program, and in 1939, Wakefield sold the recipe rights to Nestlé. Wakefield's original recipe is what we now know as Nestlé Toll House's Original Chocolate Chip Cookies.


If you like your cookies on the chewier side, use a recipe with more brown sugar; it's a major contributor of moisture.

2. German Chocolate Cake

German chocolate cake
You can't go wrong with any kind of chocolate cake, especially a rich German chocolate cake. Chalermsak/Shutterstock

The first chocolate cakes in U.S. history were actually "Mahogany cakes" and they date back to the late 1800s. Recipes for mahogany cakes first appeared cookbooks like Sarah Tyson Rorer's "The Philadelphia Cookbook" around 1886.

Around the same time, Sam German was perfecting sweet baking chocolate for Baker's chocolate company, which they named for him. But "German's Chocolate" didn't catch on until late 1950. That's when the Dallas Morning Star published the recipe for what we now know as German chocolate cake, and the rest is history.


This classic dessert combines the best of chocolate cake, coconut cake and pecan pie. Sandwiched between layers of chocolate cake is a pecan-and-coconut frosting that gets its caramelized flavor from cooked evaporated milk.

1. Fudge

chocolate fudge
Fudge is a lot like brownies. You can make it plain or fill this sweet treat with nuts, caramel, peanut butter or even chili peppers. Ekaterina Smirnova/Getty Images

In the world of fudge, there's a flavor for everyone. Traditionalists can stick with the milk or dark chocolate versions, while nut enthusiasts might incorporate walnuts or macadamias for a little extra crunch.

The best part about fudge is that it's easy to whip up, even for children. Plus, fudge makes an excellent gift for any occasion. If you've never had the pleasure of sampling homemade fudge, give it a try so that you'll forever understand why this rich sweet has captivated North American dessert-lovers for more than 100 years.

Most Popular Desserts in the U.S.A.

What is the easiest dessert to make from scratch?
Jello is easy to make and there's virtually no cleanup required. All you have to do is add boiling water to the powdered mix and chill for a few hours.
What is the most popular dessert in the United States?
According to Grubhub's "2022 Delivered" report, the top 10 dessert orders in the United States were, in order of popularity: tiramisu, baklava, cookies, cheesecake, brownie, churros, cannoli, carrot cake, chocolate cake and flan. But this list doesn't include desserts made at home or eaten in restaurants. Ice cream is notably absent from Grubhub's list but made the top of the list in a 2015 Yahoo survey, which found ice cream was 41 percent of respondents' favorite dessert, followed by cake (20 percent), cookies (11 percent), pie (11 percent), fruit (9 percent) and candy (7 percent). In the U.S., ice cream production is a whopping $11 billion industry. The most-Googled dessert topics in the United States in 2022 included banana pudding, apple crisp, sticky toffee pudding, rice pudding, dessert charcuterie board and chocolate avocado pudding.
What is the most popular bake sale item?
Cupcakes, cookies and brownies are some of the most common bake sale items because they're small and easy to distribute.
What is the most popular baked good in America?
Doughnuts. According to WebstaurantStore Blog, 123 million doughnuts were eaten in 2016 and nearly $350 million was spent on doughnuts.
What is the most popular baked good in the United States?
Cookies. An estimated 522 million cookies were eaten in the U.S. in 2016 — more than all the pies (58 million), cakes (100 million) and doughnuts (123 million) put together.

Lots More Information

Related Articles

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